By Elias Mambo
Incoming President Emmerson Mnangagwa (pictured), who will be sworn in as Zimbabwe’s new leader at the National Sports Stadium in Harare replacing former president Robert Mugabe forced out on Tuesday, wants a major policy shift and a raft of reforms to revive the shrunken economy, the Zimbabwe Independent has heard.
This comes as Mnangagwa’s advisors say the new president is also keen on an inclusive cabinet which may include members of the opposition and technocrats if they agree to work under his Zanu PF administration.
“As part of his inclusive strategy to get the best competencies and brains in his cabinet to fix the economy, he will extend invitations to individuals from across the political divide and technocrats who wish to serve in his new government,” a Mnangagwa advisor said. “It is not going to be a coalition or an inclusive government as such, but a few individuals with technical expertise will be invited to serve in the new government.”
Mnangagwa, an admirer of Chinese reformist leader Deng Xiaoping, wants to initiate economic reforms which will, among other objectives, address issues of investment, production, the ease of doing business and the controversial indigenisation policy.
The new president also wants massive parastatal and civil service reforms, while also tackling corruption in government. He further wants to re-engage the international community to end Zimbabwe’s isolation and attract foreign direct investment (FDI).
“There is definitely going to a major policy shift under the new administration which officially starts today,” a close Mnangagwa advisor told the Independent yesterday. “We will sit down urgently and come up with a new economic plan and reform agenda to ensure recovery, growth and sustainability.”
Mnangagwa will take over amid pressure to fix the economy as fast as possible to return the country to a recovery and growth path.
Before its deterioration and ravaging by hyperinflation and other problems in the past 17 years, Zimbabwe was one of the most advanced economies in Africa. It was the most industrialised economy in sub-Saharan African besides South Africa.
While many of the country’s pillars and underlying strengths remain, some of its industrial and agricultural base has since severely eroded and collapsed.
“Systematic and immediate interventions have to be made quickly,” another official close to Mnangagwa said. “As an economy operating in a multi-currency system, nominally dollarised economy in other words, we have many problems including liquidity crunch, cash shortages, diminishing net capital flows and an expansionary fiscal stance which has generated the acute cash shortages that has prompted the use of bonds notes; a quasi-currency instrument amid imposition of controls over capital and current account transactions.
“With reengagement with creditors delayed, access to external financing is limited, and the fiscal deficit is being financed by domestic borrowing at an unsustainable pace. We need to address these issues through a new economic recovery plan and policy framework that speaks to creating a friendly business environment and attracting FDI.”
Mnangagwa’s allies say he admires Deng a lot. The late Deng, who took over after Mao Zedong in 1978 until his retirement in 1992, is the architect of China’s far-reaching market economy reforms and prosperity. Mnangagwa also wants to push re-engagement process with the international community. The gravity of the economic situation has forced the Zimbabwean government into a process of re-engagement with the West.
Re-engagement is primarily aimed at attracting new money to ease the crisis of liquidity and fiscal deficit. The focus is on improving business confidence and an intensified re-engagement of the international financial institutions.
Sources said Mnangagwa will relaunch the re-engagement process with new vigour to ensure Zimbabwe becomes part of the community of nations again. This will include going back to the Commonwealth and engaging the European Union and the Unites States, among other countries. Zimbabwe left the Commonwealth in 2003.
“We tried to re-engage and there was some bit of progress on economic reforms,” a senior minister in Mugabe’s outgoing government said. “But there was little progress on governance and human rights reform which are also equally important. It is not just about economic reforms, going forward we also need to ensure we restore the rule of law, property rights and uphold human rights for the country to recover and the economy to grow.”
In addition, a source said, Mnangagwa wants to “refine” the indigenisation policy — widely seen as a barrier to the much-needed FDI — as the current version lacks clarity and consistency, among other shortcomings. The issues of parastatal and civil service reforms are said to be also at the top of Mnangagwa’s agenda. “We need massive parastatal reforms,” the advisor said. “The civil service has to be rationalised to ensure it is right-sized and efficient.”
Upon his arrival from exile, Mnangagwa assured thousands of his supporters on Wednesday that his new government will focus on the economy and jobs, as well as re-engagement already underway.
“We want to grow our country. We want peace in our country. We want jobs, jobs, jobs!,” he said. “We need also the cooperation of our neighbours in Sadc, the cooperation of the continent of Africa, we need the cooperation of our friends outside the continent. That we shall achieve. I am already receiving messages of cooperation and support for us to grow our economy.”
Britain, which always wanted Mnangagwa to replace Mugabe, sent its Minister of African Affairs Rory Stewart to attend the new president’s inauguration and re-engage.
“Minister for Africa Rory Stewart arrived in Harare on 23 November,” Britain said. “He will hold meetings with a range of political leaders from various parties, business representatives, human rights groups, NGOs and civil society.”
Stewart said the resignation of Mugabe, following his “ruinous” 37-year rule, would give Zimbabwe the opportunity to set its fragile economy on a firm growth trajectory.